I’m a newbie by all accounts… Just starting mountain biking as an adult 2 seasons ago after I moved to Colorado. My first season I was on cross country trails but last season discovered downhill mountain biking and really loved that as well! (All green trails in Winter Park and Keystone.) A couple of years ago I purchased a Specialized 29er hard tail as my learning bike and am now ready to jump to something that’s more capable for both cross country and some downhill. (I aspire to graduate to blue trails at some point.) Can you offer up some suggestions? There are so many bikes out there and a little help narrowing it down would be so appreciated along with any of your color commentary!
I really do like the 29er while I’m still learning to clear larger obstacles but would perhaps be open to a 27.5" if there are good reasons to do so. I’m female, 28 years old but would be open to both mens and womens bikes. I’m purposefully leaving out a budget to really get a good range of what folks recommend for someone at my level.
I like the hardtails because you lose less energy from pedaling unlike a full suspension from what I understand. They are also a bit lighter. Once you start doing freeride you’ll want a full suspension.
I’m thinking for Colorado, you need something that can climb as well as descend. I would go with some kind of full suspension trail bike in a 650b wheel size, which IMO, works better on the technical terrain. I’ve been looking at Norco’s lately and like what I see. Good bikes with a decent price tag. Check out the Norco Fluid Forma, which is a women specific design and nicely set up.
To be honest, there’s really no such thing as a single bike which is up to the rigors of legitimate downhill riding and still efficient enough to be a good xc bike at the same time. However, a good trail or all mountain/enduro bike can handle entry level or light blue downhilling and will still pedal well.
I agree that the sweet spot is a 27.5" trail bike, i.e. around 5" of travel (for most people). I like more technical stuff on a day to day basis, so my first choice is an all-mountain (6" travel) bike.
Living in CO (if you’re in the populated areas), you will have access to plenty of free demo days where you can try a few bikes to see what fits your body and riding style. Here in Colorado Springs, there is an Intense Demo day today, Specialized tomorrow, and in just the last month, we’ve had visits from Rocky Mountain, Ibis, Yeti, and Salsa (that I know of). The situation is similar up in the Denver area. There are also lots of demo days throughout the mountains. If any particular bike catches your fancy, go to the company web site and see if they’re having any demo days in your area.
You can usually rent bikes if there isn’t a demo day in the near future or physically close enough. You can also get a used bike if cost is an issue. You can get a more advanced bikes a lot of times used for a fraction of new. Craigslist is your friend. Just do the deal at a police station.